Sunday History Photo / Vic

Submitted: Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 01:58
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The Great Ocean Road was first planned in 1864, when chairman of the Country Roads Board William Calder asked the State War Council for funds be provided for returned soldiers to work on roads in sparsely populated areas in the Western district. By the time of World War I, the rugged south-west coast of Victoria was accessible only by sea or rough bush track.Besides being dedicated as a memorial, it was also envisioned that the road would connect isolated settlements on the coast, and become a vital transport link for the timber industry and tourism.
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Surveying for the road, tentatively titled the South Coast Road, started in 1918 - with the road suggested to travel from Barwon Heads, follow the coast west around Cape Otway, and end near Warrnambool.In 1918, the Great Ocean Road Trust was formed as a private company, under the helm of president Howard Hitchcock. The company managed to secure £81,000 in capital from private subscription and borrowing, with Hitchcock himself contributing £3000. Money would be repaid by charging drivers a toll until the debt was cleared, and the road would then be gifted to the state
Construction on the road began on 19 September 1919, built by approximately 3,000 returned servicemen as a war memorial for fellow servicemen who had been killed in World War I. An advance survey team progressed through dense wilderness at approximately 3 kilometres a month. Construction was done by hand; using explosives, pick and shovel, wheel barrows, and some small machinery, and was at times perilous, with several workers killed on the job; the final sections along steep coastal mountains being the most difficult to work on.
The soldiers were paid 10 shillings and sixpence for eight hours per day, also working a half-day on Saturdays. They used tents for accommodation throughout, and made use of a communal dining marquee and kitchen; food costing up to 10 shillings a week. Despite the difficulty involved in constructing the road, the workers had access to a piano, gramophone, games, newspapers and magazines at the camps. Additionally, in 1924, the Casino steamboat became stranded near Cape Patton after hitting a reef, forcing it to jettison 500 barrels of beer and 120 cases of spirits. The workers obtained the cargo, resulting in an unscheduled two week long drinking break.
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On 18 March 1922 the section from Eastern View to Lorne was officially opened with celebrations. However it was then closed from 10 May 1922 for further work; opening again on 21 December along with tolls to recoup construction costs. The charge, payable at Eastern View, was two shillings for motor cars, and 10 shillings for wagons with more than two horses.
In November 1932, the section from Lorne to Apollo Bay was finished, bringing the road to completion. The road was officially opened with Victoria's Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Irvine holding a ceremony near Lorne's Grand Pacific Hotel, and the road subsequently being acknowledged as the world's largest war memorial. At the time, newspaper The Age commented - "In the face of almost insurmountable odds, the Great Ocean Road has materialised from a dream or 'wild-cat scheme', as many dubbed it, into concrete reality".Hitchcock had however died of heart disease on 22 August 1932, before the road was completed, though his car was driven behind the governor's in the procession along the road during the opening ceremony. A memorial was constructed in Hitchcock's name on the road at Mount Defiance, near Lorne, and he is still affectionately considered the Father of the Road.
In it's original state, the road was considered a formidable drive; fitting only a single vehicle comfortably at a time. Areas with sheer cliffs would be most hazardous, with only few places for drivers to pull over to allow others to proceed in the opposite direction.On 2 October 1936, the road was handed to the State Government; with the deed for the road presented to the Victorian Premier at a ceremony at the Cathedral Rock toll gate. It was at this time that the tolls were also removed.
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In 1962, the road was deemed by the Tourist Development Authority to be one of the world's great scenic roads. It also had sections widened between the Lorne Hotel and the Pacific Hotel to improve traffic, while aiming to preserve it's character. Despite improvements, the road was still considered a challenging drive; the Victorian Police motor school even using it for training around 1966.
Over it's life, the Great Ocean Road has been susceptible to natural elements; in 1960 the section at Princetown was partially washed away by water during storms. It experienced landslides on 11 August 1964, and in 1971; both closing sections of the road near Lorne. Because of the terrain surrounding the road, it was also closed due to bush-fires in and 1964.

Thanks to EO Member Dave Cox of Grovedale , Vic for the Photo’s.

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Reply By: carlj - Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 06:32

Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 06:32
Thank you very much it is much appreciated ,I have this one on my to do list
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Follow Up By: Member - Christopher P (NSW) - Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 16:57

Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 16:57
thanks again Doug for a delightful dip in Australian history!!!!

me too on the road as a drive, i like to drive windy roads.


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Reply By: dingbat - Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 07:08

Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 07:08
Its a great road, been on it a few times, but its getting busier and busier--read more restrictions.

The fine details in the story were unknown to me although I knew it had been built by ex soldiers, I liked the bit about the wreck and the beer barrels.

Thanks again Doug
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Reply By: Member - MUZBRY(Vic) - Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 07:31

Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 07:31
Gday Goug
I was down there three weeks ago and was amazed at the number of road signs.There are many signs to tell you which side of the road to travel on in Australia.
Murray
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Follow Up By: Bonz (Vic) - Monday, Jul 05, 2010 at 06:35

Monday, Jul 05, 2010 at 06:35
no sprise Muz, I may need to read the signs when we come home
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Follow Up By: Member - MUZBRY(Vic) - Monday, Jul 05, 2010 at 06:47

Monday, Jul 05, 2010 at 06:47
Gday Bonz
I thought you were away by the reply about fuel costs. Euro instead of $..... I hope you are having a good holiday?
Enjoy
Murray
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Reply By: Member - Paul F (QLD) - Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 07:40

Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 07:40
Thanks Doug T,

This road is on our 'to do' list as well - your history will only add to the enjoyment. We plan to do the trip with a daughter, son-in-law and two grand kids in March next year.

Many thanks again for the history

Paul
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 09:50

Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 09:50
Hi Doug
Another great read, thank you. There is a great memorial to the Diggers that built it at the eastern start.

Cheers

Stephen

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Reply By: Rip64 - Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 10:53

Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 10:53
Great read Doug,
I drive GOR every day and up until your post have taken it for granted.
Lorne and Anglesea Historical Society's have wonderful info on road and it,s history - well worth a squiz.
If you have not been to Lorne in the past 18 months, it has had a complete street scape face lift - very well done but I'd still prefer the sleepy coastal town of 20 years ago. (Cant stop progress).
Thanks again.
Brian
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Reply By: Member - David C2 (VIC) - Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 11:04

Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 11:04
Thank you Doug, well written and researched as always. It is truly a beautiful and majestic slice of our coastline made even more special when we acknowledge the hard work and sacrifice of the men who built it, and why.

Happy travels Dave
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Reply By: Member - Patrick (QLD) - Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 17:23

Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 17:23
A woke up and went straight to the computer to read Doug's Sunday history. When I could not find it I thought that he may have been sick! It wasn't for about an hour until I realised that it was Saturday and I had to wait another day.

At least I did not miss it.....

Well done Doug, a fine read.

Patrick

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Follow Up By: Member - Doug T (NT) - Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 19:30

Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 19:30
Patrick
Don't worry mate, I did the same last year, posted the SHP Saturday Morning just after midnight, anyhow it all turned out ok as I had it removed and re posted it on the next morning...

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Reply By: Marion - Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 18:55

Sunday, Jul 04, 2010 at 18:55
Thanks again Doug, I to have taken it for granted as I travel on it frequently.It is hard to imagine what it would be like to travel on it in the old days, keep up the great researching as I do look forward to your history lesson and Macca on sunday's.
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Reply By: Bonz (Vic) - Monday, Jul 05, 2010 at 06:39

Monday, Jul 05, 2010 at 06:39
Great one Doug, as a close resident I love the drive and its stories
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